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New Jersey Conservation Foundation seeks to intervene in lawsuit to protect historic Palisades

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/ 01/23/14

FAR HILLS - Today the New Jersey Conservation Foundation joined the Natural Resources Defense Council to challenge a variance allowing LG Electronics to build an office tower that would rise high above Palisades Interstate Park, permanently spoiling the unbroken Palisades sweeping northwards from the George Washington Bridge.

The Palisades is a national landmark, but it's also a New Jersey landmark and treasure, said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. It is critical to step up and represent the conservation interests of our state.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation and NRDC jointly filed a motion with the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court to intervene in the case brought by residents of Englewood Cliffs, the New Jersey Women's Federation and Scenic Hudson.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of a 2012 zoning variance granted by Englewood Cliffs that would allow LG to build a 143-foot headquarters next to the Palisades Interstate Park. The building would be more than four times taller than the historic 35-foot zoning limit respected by all other companies in the area.

If this massive office tower is constructed as planned, it will forever taint one of the most iconic scenic vistas in the nation - and open the door for more high-rise development to extend for miles upstream, undoing a century of conservation, said Mark Izeman, Senior Attorney and Director of the New York Program at NRDC. Fortunately, there is a 'win-win' solution available to LG: design smarter. By choosing an alternative, low-rise design on its large tract, LG can provide the same amount office space and the same number of jobs without destroying one of the last remaining natural places in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.

Last year, New Jersey Conservation Foundation worked with four former New Jersey governors to appeal to LG's chief executives to redesign the building and protect the Palisades. Their plea was soundly rebuffed and invitations to meet were also refused.

The Palisades have remained a landscape of unbroken, natural beauty in a heavily developed metropolitan area, appreciated by generations of residents and visitors, wrote former Governors Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman. We are concerned that this tower would not only interrupt the historic, natural vista enjoyed by millions, but would also set a precedent for greater building heights stretching northward along these iconic cliffs, eroding the unique American landmark of the Palisades.

In addition, the leaders of more than a dozen respected land conservancies from all over the United States sent a similar request to LG and were also rebuffed.
We felt that with all avenues of communication and persuasion with LG having failed, this litigation was our last resort, said Byers.

Background

The Palisades Interstate Park is a pristine area of land along the west bank of the Hudson River running through northeastern New Jersey and southern New York. It includes parkland, natural steep rock cliffs, and the Palisades Interstate Parkway. In contrast to the heavy, high-rise development south of the George Washington Bridge, the cliffs and ridge tops of the Palisades to the north are unbroken for 13 miles upstream.

The Palisades are designated by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. The Palisades Interstate Parkway has been designated a state Scenic Byway. Efforts to preserve the Palisades have been ongoing since the end of the 19th century.

In 2011, LG Electronicsone the world's largest electronics and appliance manufacturersapplied to the Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board for site approval and a number of variances to build a the 143-foot building. At that time, the permitted height in the relevant zone was 35 feet.

In February 2012, the zoning board approved the variance for the proposed building. The zoning board decision was appealed, and in August 2012 a Superior Court judge upheld it without mentioning the Palisades. The plaintiffs - residents of Englewood Cliffs, the New Jersey Women's Federation and Scenic Hudson - appealed to the Superior Court's Appellate Division.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation and NRDC now seek to intervene and join the original plaintiffs in challenging that decision, and urging the appellate court to reverse the lower court's ruling.

Based in Far Hills, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, the Foundation has preserved 125,000 acres of land and has advocated for strong land conservation laws and policies.

For more information, go to www.ProtectThePalisades.org.

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